While some kids are off on vacation, hanging out with friends, texting, gaming or just lazing in the sun, Wardah Samad has been carefully planning her last few weeks of the summer vacation. After earning her Bronze Award in Girl Scouting for her troop’s work collecting toys and food for shelter and pound dogs, Wardah was determined to earn her Silver Award before her September 30,, 2017 deadline.
In March, with the help of her Girl Scout troop leader, Amberine Saldanha, Wardah developed her Silver Award proposal for the Girl Scout Council’s approval. Her challenge in this proposal was to do something that would make a difference in her local community. She had to clearly devise a plan, determine what she would learn from it, explain the impact it would have on her community and how the idea could be sustainable. Quite a task for this 14 year old.
Wardah had little trouble coming up with her plan though. She decided to do something she already has a passion for. She loves to read and she wanted to promote and foster that passion in others. She decided to develop a library where children could come and read or be read to. She would solicit book donations from local libraries, her friends and neighbors. She did and wow, she came up with quite a collection! With several hundred books rounded up, now she needed a venue from which to launch her idea. Leader Saldanha presented Wardah with a list of possible agencies which might be willing to help her with her plan. After reviewing the list and seeing what each agency actually did, she decided to contact Rise. Rise welcomed her. Cris Ciobanu helped her define and refine the services she would provide and suggested that she read with children when their parents came to obtain backpacks and school supplies through the Rise’s backpack campaign. While parents were picking up the supplies or running short local errands, Wardah welcomed students into her library which she herself laid out and set up. Wardah initially encouraged each child to read something at his/her own reading level. “If they were weak readers,” says Wardah, “I would read to them. If they were inattentive, I would sometimes stop and play a board game with them.” Part of Wardah’s plan was to engage children, see what they were interested in and then send them home with a book of their choosing. She says that many of the children love the Goosebumps and Judy Moody book series.
Wardah has made some very insightful observations through this experience. She’s noticed that some children’s reading skills are not where they should be for their age. Some are reluctant or weak readers. She suggests that “maybe their parents are financially struggling and they just don’t have time to encourage their children so they are not as good readers as they should be.” She was really surprised to find that “when I asked them personal questions, they were often shocked I was interested in them.”
She also learned a few things about herself during this experience. She learned to “step outside her comfort zone” and by doing so she “improved her own communication skills.” She says she’s learned to be grateful for all that she has and she realizes how privileged she is. Wardah hopes to someday go to med school, become a doctor and work in a hospital. For now, she is thrilled that she has done something useful for her community. She hopes her love of reading has rubbed off on some of the children she has met. She says, “Whenever I’m mad or sad, I can pick up a book and be in another world for a while. I want every kid to have that feeling.” What a great coping skill for anyone, of any age.
Sadly, Wardah has to hit the books herself as she begins her freshman year of high school. “Creating the library was a fun experience,” says Wardah, “I enjoyed working with kids and I’ll do it again next summer.” Earning her Silver Award at Rise is certainly one for the books!
By Joice Reyhan